Correction: The OGE tweets did not specifically cite Price, his financial holdings or the Senate hearing.
The Office of Government Ethics Wednesday sent a series of four tweets outlining its procedures examining incoming Trump administration officials – right in the middle of a contentious Senate hearing about Rep. Tom Price’s stock transactions.
The OGE tweets did not specifically cite Price, his financial holdings or the Senate hearing.
The tweets came less than an hour after Price – President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services – defended himself against questions about his stock transactions at a Senate hearing and invoked the ethics office’s approval.
Under questioning about his investments, Price cited the Office of Government Ethics and its “diligence” in its role reviewing all Cabinet nominees’ financial records.
“We have agreed to every single recommendation that they’ve made to divest of whatever holdings we have that might even give the appearance of a possible conflict,” Price said.
CNN reported on Monday that financial disclosures show Price invested in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing a bill that would benefit that company. Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for an investigation into whether Price may have violated the law.
Price has said the stocks were purchased through a broker and that he did not know which stocks he owned.
He repeated that he did nothing inappropriate and pointed to disclosures he made to OGE that were signed off on in the nomination process.
The ethics office’s tweets came shortly thereafter, with messages outlining what it does – and doesn’t – do.
“OGE’s focus is prevention; IGs investigate potential misconduct & @TheJusticeDept prosecutes criminal violations,” OGE tweeted shortly thereafter.
“OGE oversees the executive branch #ethics program, while Congress & the Courts have their own ethics programs,” they continued. “OGE does not handle complaints of misconduct. Please learn where & how to report #fed employee misconduct,” the agency wrote, including links to its missions and procedures.
OGE did not comment on the tweets on the record.
Though the tweet did not specially refer to Price, the OGE has tangled with the incoming Trump administration before.
The office’s Twitter account has been vocal in advocating for full divestment by President-elect Donald Trump, which Trump is not opting to do, and the chief of the office has been vocal about his concerns.
An expert on ethics and former Federal Election Commission general counsel said Price’s submission to OGE would not have been scrutinized for past actions.
“The Office of Government ethics reviews his current situation for potential conflicts of interest and negotiates an agreement with how he should handle (divestment) in the future,” Larry Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said about Price’s testimony. “It does not look at his past activity.”
Noble also said that purchasing the stock through a broker alone wouldn’t mean there are no ethical questions – saying Price would need to assure he and the broker did not discuss the stock or the bill.
“The fact of the matter is that I have had no conversations with my broker about any political activity at all other than her congratulating me on my election,” Price said before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said that Price appeared to have invested in a number of drug companies before taking action to “inflate” those firms’ values.
“Why wouldn’t you at least tell her, ‘Listen, stay clear of any companies that are directly affected by my legislative work?’” Murphy asked.
“Because the agreement that we have is that she’d provide a diversified portfolio, which is exactly what virtually every one of you have in your investment opportunities, and make certain that in order to protect one’s assets, that there’s a diversified arrangement for purchase of stocks,” Price said. “I knew nothing about those purchases.”
CNN’s Laura Jarrett, MJ Lee and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.